Utilizing the pure, sustainable energy of the ground is the goal of geothermal technology. Geothermal energy has a variety of applications, including the heating and cooling of commercial buildings. Geothermal heat pumps are incredibly effective systems that enable this.
Buildings are heated and cooled throughout the year with the help of geothermal heat pump (GHP) systems, also known as earth-coupled or ground-source heat pumps. These systems use a network of underground, liquid-filled pipes to exchange heat with the earth above them. Geothermal energy maintains relatively constant ground temperatures, acting as a heat source in cold weather and a heat sink for cooling in hot time. This contrasts with the tendency of air temperatures to alter with the seasons.
GHPs can minimize a building’s energy use by up to 25% and its emissions from energy use by up to 50% by utilizing renewable, cost-free geothermal energy. With such remarkable advantages, it begs the question of why these very effective and environmentally-friendly HVAC systems aren’t more commonplace.
A Sustainable Design From Nature
Heinrich Zoelly, a Mexican-Swiss engineer, invented the geothermal heat pump in 1912, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that these systems became widely available. Geothermal energy has been used in HVAC systems ever since.
Today’s GHPs are similar to conventional water source heat pumps, but instead of a boiler and cooling tower water loop, they employ a ground heat exchanger. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes buried below the frost level make up a ground heat exchanger. Water transfers heat from or adds heat to a building as it flows through the pipes. Traditional air-source HVAC systems use outside air to gather and remove heat, which is comparably ineffective in the hottest summer and coldest winter months.
There are various GHP system configurations available, including:
- Water from a well, lake, or stream is used in open loop systems as a heat source or heat sink.
- Closed ground loop systems circulate a water and antifreeze mixture through an underground piping loop.
- Pond/lake loop systems utilise a heat exchanger buried in a drought-resistant body of water as a type of closed ground loop system.
Building owners can choose which system to utilize by considering loop temperatures, local geological conditions, installation costs, codes, and laws.
Unlocking The Advantages For Commercial Use
Heating and cooling are the main concerns for building owners because they make up the majority of a facility’s energy costs. High energy costs are a problem for many building owners, and those who reside in regions that forbid the installation of natural gas equipment in newly constructed structures must find alternative means of maintaining tenant comfort. Building owners should utilize GHP systems because they reduce costs and environmental effect as electricity bills rise and communities move away from fossil fuels.
Despite performing similar tasks, GHPs are far more efficient than conventional air or water source heat pumps. In comparison to air source heat pumps, GHPs can use 25 to 50 percent less energy and, in the coldest climates, can achieve energy efficiencies of 300 to 600 percent. GHPs only require a little amount of purchased electricity to run because of the amount of free energy they absorb. GHPs can generate 12,000 British thermal units (BTUs) of heating and cooling with just 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh) of grid electricity. On a day with a 95°F air temperature, a typical air source heat pump requires 2.2 kWh to create the equivalent amount. Four to six kWh are produced when three to four kWh of free energy and one kWh of grid energy are combined. This results in construction efficiencies that are three to four times higher than what is needed to run the system.
Additionally, GHPs are nearly 50% more efficient than the greatest gas furnaces and nearly twice as efficient as the finest air-source air conditioners, and they have the lowest emissions of any HVAC application. GHP technologies virtually eliminate emissions on-site and cut carbon emissions resulting from the energy a building uses by up to 50%. GHPs can be utilized to heat the building’s regular water supply, significantly reducing energy costs and the carbon footprint of the structure. Increasing the usage of GHPs will significantly cut global emissions for a healthier, cleaner planet because residential and commercial buildings are responsible for almost 40% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
While reduced carbon emissions and energy efficiency alone are advantages, GHP systems also provide lengthy component lives. Heat pumps can last more than 20 years, while the heat exchanger and the entire subsurface infrastructure can last 25 to 50 years. The initial capital expense is frequently what prevents building owners from installing GHP systems, but this lengthy service life combined with energy savings is frequently enough for GHPs to pay for themselves within five to fourteen years.
The Expanding GHP Industry
Despite not having the same level of public recognition as other renewable energy sources, geothermal energy is becoming more and more popular. The market for systems is anticipated to surpass $2 billion in the United States alone by 2024 as the number of GHPs deployed increases every year.
This demand is primarily being driven by three causes. First and foremost, contractors and developers aim to save energy expenses while earning certifications. Second, states with a strong commitment to attaining their climate goals have put strict energy regulations in place and encourage people to adopt air-source and water-source heat pumps. Third, the U.S. military will deploy geothermal technology for new construction as well as facility modifications at large-scale stations.
Opening The Door To Comfortable Decarbonization
Geothermal heat pumps are increasingly being recognized as a compelling, high-efficiency heating and cooling solution as legislation and trends push the HVAC sector toward decarbonization. Many different commercial customers have taken notice of their energy and cost-saving benefits, and they will undoubtedly be wanting to implement these robust systems. GHPs are sensible choices for sustainable comfort now and in the future because of their unmatched energy efficiency, low environmental impact, long service life, and flexibility.